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Friday, March 4, 2011

Chicken Biryani - a Gutsy Cooks Selection

I have to blame Monica for my dissatisfaction with this perfectly good dish. Because if I'm dissatisfied I have to blame someone, and I'd rather it weren't me. Monica, in getting our enthusiasm up for this Chicken Biryani, also noted what a real chicken biryani entails: parboil the rice; use ghee (clarified butter); deep fry the onions to a crispy brown; use lots of complex spices. Read about the real thing, she urged us! Be creative! I followed the recipe in The Illustrated Kitchen Bible pretty closely, and I ended up with a casserole that might have tasted exotic in the 50's, but wasn't going to please anyone who wanted an authentic Indian dish. On the other hand, it was easy to make, would have served a small army, and used ingredients that you can find at any grocery store. So there's your trade-off. (If you want to see a more authentic, more labor-intensive dish, check out Shandy's version).

The recipe calls only for cooking the onions for just a few minutes, until "translucent," but I cooked them for quite a bit longer than that, until they were starting to caramelize. The smell of the onions, cardamom, and cinnamon was pretty appetizing.

I had cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, chicken broth, garlic, and basmati rice on hand. All I needed to pick up was chicken and golden raisins.

After about 15 minutes, the onions start to caramelize. Adding the spices gives them color too.

Cut-up chicken breasts, raisins and rice go into the pot. I told you it was easy.

Add the chicken broth and simmer until it's done. Despite Monica's warning about not over-cooking the rice, I over-cooked the rice. It took 15 minutes tops--less time than I ordinarily cook rice. I'll take responsibility for the less than al dente nature of the rice. I can't blame Monica for everything. (If you read this, Monica, it's a joke).

When the rice is done, preferably before it's mushy, top it with some toasted almonds. And there you have it. I warned Jim that it was going to taste more like something from Better Homes and Gardens than from Madhur Jaffrey. But he said he was just a simple country lad who would eat anything I dished up.


Jim: Maybe I just don't have a refined palate, but I really like it. I'll give it a 9, and I'll eat the leftovers.

Me: It didn't have the complexity and fullness of flavor that I love in Indian food, so I'll give it a 7.


  1. Marie.. you made me laugh so hard when reading your post.. I know, I know, I guess I set the bar high! Jim and Tom sound the same.. Tom, who loves Indian food like it... but then he order the lamb when we go to our local Indian restaurant... so, there may be something there.

    It looks pretty good on my end.. I bet it tasted great too, even at a 7!

  2. great twist to the receipe, you may also like to try the Afghani meat biryani as shown here cashew nuts should also go in the receipe and almonds can also be added.